Police suspect arson as cause of Provo brush fires

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PROVO -- Provo police are on the lookout for someone who intentionally set several fires along the foothills Tuesday afternoon. Investigators now say they are certain these fires were arson.

Firefighters spent the afternoon monitoring five brush fires, all set within less than 30 minutes, beginning around 2 p.m.

The blazes started near Rock Canyon and kept popping up to the south, near the Y mountain trailhead and near Slate Canyon. Had it been a windy afternoon, authorities believe most of the fires could have made a run up the mountain.

"With all the elements in line, that could have created a terrible fire here, as far as the brush that was dry and the ignition source," said Provo police Lt. Jeff Lougee.

Police are focusing on a Black SUV or pickup truck that was seen in the area of the fires and other similar blazes in Utah County of late. Neighbors are being credited for quickly calling 911.

"Those citizens that helped us out today should be complimented, because they really saved this entire area with their quick notification to police and fire to come up here and save the area," Lougee said.

Seven years ago, Provo residents were evacuated after a 13-yearold boy started a fire in the foothills. That fire took a couple of days to contain and cost $300,000 to fight.

Police aren't sure how many people are involved in starting these fires but say it's fortunate all of them were quickly extinguished.

"Whether or not someone was trying to be funny or just wanted to watch a fire, they don't realize the danger they could have caused," Lougee said. "This fire could have rolled down on somebody, or hurt somebody, and that's extremely serious."

Officials are asking for help locating the suspicious black vehicle. Witnesses say it has the license plate number of Utah A996X6 or Utah A996XG.

Beginning Wednesday, legal fireworks are once again permitted in Utah in advance of the 24th of July. Firefighters say what happened Tuesday shows that, intentional or not, a small firework has the potential to create a disaster.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com


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